Tuesday, 20 August 2013

the nomos & anomie of rugby- or why teams succeed & fail

The American sociologist Peter Berger in discussing what held society together and enabled it to function  talked of society as a dialectical phenomenon wherein it is at one and same time a human product and an external reality that acts back upon its creators.That is, we create society but also experience it as if it is more than a human creation that in turn we respond to. This process creates a meaningful order (nomos) upon experience.
Nomos = a social construction that keeps at bay the terror of social disorder and isolation.
 This meaningful order  (nomos) is what keeps the experience of disorder (anomie) at bay.
 This can be read in tandem with  the great sociologist Durkheim's work on functionalism.
 For Durkheim, society  is divided into parts and sub parts that fit together- each institution and social group has its function to perform for benefit of society.
 Society  is more than sum of  its parts- for if all parts function well and are connected then a new whole/society occurs.
 Durkheim also looked at what held society together at its functionalist core.
He looked at primitive society and identified as central the totem- an animal or plant that the group identified itself with- and identified with versus the totems/groups of others
 Durkheim saw the  totem as materialist principle of totem of god, but also  that the totem could be symbol of society without them even realising it
 So argues, Durkheim,  god and society are one: that a society is its god and its god is its society- worshipping your god is worshipping your society- and so society is the real object of religious veneration
  However we are unaware we worship society because society too abstract and complex to be materialized into a totem to be worshipped
 The symbols become the expression of the collective consciousness.
 This is the experience of what Berger terms the nomos.
 So what has all of this to do with rugby.
Over the weekend I saw two teams that displayed a  nomos, a functioning society, able to express the totemic value that holds them together. Both the Canterbury ITM  team and the All Blacks succeeded despite often going for periods without the ball, despite not really playing very well at times, despite having to integrate new players into an existing set-up.
 Both teams demonstrated that the nomos, the central totemic values, the team society are such that the collective can transcend the individuals. as such it is not so much about the players as how they play together.
In contrast Australian rugby continues to be a society experiencing anomie.
 Perhaps there is an internal competition of totems, the lack of a collective society that all are prepared or able to buy into.
 The Canterbury rugby team and the All Blacks are, in the end, their own totem and their own nomos. That is the secret of their success: they play to defend and venerate themselves. To lose is to risk losing their own self-identity and to risk anomie.

Friday, 9 August 2013

End of Super Rugby review: random thoughts

So I was wrong on my score prediction of the Crusaders-Chiefs semi-final but this was a game the Crusaders should have won- and back in the 2000s they would have won. But that was then and this team is not the team that was. Carter is himself not the consistent player he has been and a sabbatical is actually the last thing he may actually need. He is sluggish in decision making, becoming predictable and able to be out-smarted by opposing coaches. He does not have the same quality of players around him as in the ABs so lacks the support and cover.
 In short, the crusaders need 2 new half backs and a new second five, a new hooker and a  new blind side/no8  who is not a whitelock.

We also know the Crusaders backs are not the consistent force they need to be, but even more worrying was the way the Crusaders forwards were effectively beaten-up by the Chiefs.

 Liam Messum is not as good a player as he is made to look by the Chiefs and he is very one-dimensional. but he has been exceptionally coached and in Craig Clark the Chiefs had their version of Reuben Thorne; the gutsy, hardworking, do the basics exceptionally well and lead in a way all will follow player central to any successful team.

 In considering the Crusaders it is evident that this is a very solid, capable team but  it is starting to have a bit of the Nonu factor is that all the All-Blacks in it really seem to need the AB environment to play their best.

 This is a worrying trend in NZ Rugby whereby the ABs are now effectively playing a different style and type of game to that played and experienced at super rugby level.
The ABs in super rugby are having to constantly adjust to a different level and type of game, and this is not helped by the break in super rugby caused by the mid-year tour.

The most concerning thing about the season for the NZRFU must be the failure to attract big crowds. The discretionary dollar has many more options today and the number of games over a drawn out season, too many night games, cold weather, coupled with too many second-rate teams is turning people off.   The NZRFU needs to realise that 12,000-15000 is what they need to expect to almost every game- and if that is not enough to break even then they cannot blame the fans. Is super rugby too expensive for a small nation? Is it too expensive when too many games are played, too many night games, too many indifferent games.

When a reported 3000 can turn up to  the Christchurch club rugby final played in the afternoon, but only 15,000 turn up to a super rugby playoff  then  questions need to be raised as to how meaningful is super rugby to many people.
Remember the huge crowds for  Ranfurly shield matches back in the 1980s. We cannot expect to return to those crowds because such games were rare and meaningful. Scarcity is a value in sport- too much and it becomes mundane. 

 So now we turn to the ITM cup- and what do we see- far too many night games. Turning rugby into a nocturnal activity may please the broadcasters but it is killing the game. Too much rugby makes it it mundane- and makes it easy for the population to become indifferent.